Three years after returning to his small NSW hometown, former NRL player Josh McCrone led the Temora Dragons to their first minor premiership in nearly two decades.
But McCrone, a former Raiders player turned coach-captain for the local team, quickly shuts down any suggestion he might be a hero in the Riverina town of 6000 people.
“Temora offers me a lot more than I offer Temora, there’s no doubt about that,” McCrone told AAP.
“Temora is a pretty cool little town, it’s a tight-knit community where your kids can walk down the street and you know everyone’s name.”
McCrone was living and training in Manchester, England, when COVID-19 lockdowns prompted the move home to country NSW with his wife and children.
The 36-year-old finished training as an electrician, a trade he first took up as a teenager.
“It’s satisfying work in that when I finish for the day, you see someone’s lights working or you’ve fixed the hot water, as opposed to training all week to play a game and if you don’t win you’ve got nothing to show for it.
“The job satisfaction in that way is good, but rugby league is still pretty cool.”
A quiet country life with all the benefits of extended family, reliable work, affordable rent and a continued connection to his sport is what lured McCrone home.
He is among many tradespeople around the nation to see an opportunity for a good life outside a major city, according to new research by the Regional Australia Institute think tank.
The Institute’s survey of more than 500 city-based tradespeople found 92 per cent could be tempted by a job in the regions, where there were 10,426 skilled worker vacancies in June.
Nearly half said they were under pressure from the rising costs of work-related travel, including tolls and petrol, as well as cost of living pressures in the cities.
One-third of the respondents said they were worried about job security, fearing work was drying up in the capitals.
Younger tradies, aged between 18 and 34, were the most likely to consider a tree change, the data showed.
The research is part of the Institute’s recruitment campaign, which encourages workers to “move to more” in the regions in a bid to ease the skills shortage and support growing towns.
“To rebalance the nation and really grow regional Australia, we need enhanced regional infrastructure,” the Institute’s chief executive Liz Ritchie said.
“And to build that infrastructure, you need a skilled and experienced workforce.
“So if you’re a plumber who’s tired of sitting in rush hour traffic or an electrician who spends hours commuting from job-to-job, we’re imploring you to think beyond city limits.
“Regional Australia is crying out for skilled tradespeople to build the houses, hospitals and schools of tomorrow.”
(Australian Associated Press)